“Ok, everything is complete now,” said the secretary, Comfort, as she expertly gathered the sheaf of papers on her table, jamming them together with a stapling machine and standing at the same time.
“Just a moment,” she said added, as she walked away towards the office of the Head of Chambers.
Ihechi silently prayed that her rumbling tummy wouldn’t be loud enough for the other occupants of the conference room to hear as she furiously scribbled on her paper.
She glanced in Ogoo’s direction to discover that she too was writing, but not as fast and furiously as she was. So she decided to slow down, reminding herself that it wasn’t bar-finals after all.
Some ten minutes later, they were both done writing and had submitted their papers. Ihechi was so hungry that she had taken to yawning every five minutes. They sat still in their seats, as Susan and Kingsley pored over their works, conversing in a conspiratorial manner and pointing out to themselves things in each work.
“Excuse me, sir, but we are really very hungry,” Ogoo cut in. “Can we go out and get some drinks and snacks while you go through our work? We won’t be long.” The woman made a point not to look at Ihechi, knowing she wouldn’t approve.
“Of course you can! Take five minutes,” Kingsley said off-handedly.
Ogoo stood up immediately and started out of the room, pulling Ihechi after her by the hand as if she were scared their interviewers would change their minds.
Stepping out of the main door of the office into the afternoon was like moving from a pot of cold water into a pot of hot water.
“Kai! This sun –” Ihechi started to say.
“Eh-eh, eh-eh! Don’t even complain!” Ogoo interrupted, raising her right hand, palm out as if to ward off Ihechi’s words. “How can you not be going out of your mind with hunger? Are you fasting?” She had rounded on Ihechi.
“No,” Ihechi replied, her brows furrowing in mild confusion as she stared at the other woman. Where is this sudden attack coming from? she thought to herself.
“I know you are anxious about getting this job…” Ogoo continued.
Duh! Try desperate, Ihechi thought.
“…but, trust me, this office needs us more than we need them! Just relax,” Ogoo finished.
“Anxious ke? I’m not anxious for anything oh! It either works out or it doesn’t. Life goes on,” Ihechi said with a flick of her fingers and a large dose of bravado she did not feel.
“Let us start going now, before our five minutes will expire please,” Ogoo said, dragging Ihechi’s hand again.
“Ihechi, wait!” A voice called out from a distance, causing the two of them to turn and look.
Comfort was briskly walking towards them on impossibly high heels and waving her hand to them. Seeing her tottering toward them made Ihechi wonder how on earth someone could walk on those stilettos without a helmet on.
“Ah! Una don finish already? That was fast oh!” Comfort said, slightly out of breath when she got to them.
“No, we haven’t finished. They asked us to take five minutes and get something to eat,” Ihechi replied.
“Ok! Well, oga asked me to buy food for you guys,” Comfort said, raising her left hand to brandish a white poly bag swinging from the crook of three of her fingers. “Have you already taken something?” she asked.
“No, we haven’t,” Ogoo answered.
“Oya, let’s get out of this sun,” Ihechi said, moving back into the office and into the blessed coldness of it. She absolutely did not envy Comfort her errand.
Ihechi was called in first for the oral interview. When she went into the conference room, it was to find Kingsley seated in there alone. The smile he gave her as she walked in was unsettling. It was precariously close to a leer, but Ihechi reminded herself that the man was ‘Brother Kingsley, the preacher’. She smiled sedately back and sat down across from him.
“Ihechi, finally, we meet again,” Kingsley said then, his smile taking on the cast of a Cheshire cat. “Only now, you’re looking straight at me and paying attention to me, and not through me. And, I have something you need so badly.”
Ihechi wasn’t sure if she was meant to answer to that. So, she shrugged.
“You won’t say anything?” Kingsley pressed.
“What do you want me to say? I listened to you when you preached at that birthday party,” she returned.
“You did?” Kingsley sounded excited. “Do you remember what I said about finding God’s will in the strangest and least expected of places?”
Ihechi could not remember one thing about that preaching. In fact, he had droned on and on that day that she tuned off. Even if she had paid attention, how did he expect her to remember the words of a sermon he made more than a year ago? She sighed inwardly, wishing Susan would come already so that the interview would start.
“You were the inspiration for that message, you know?” Kingsley continued. “Immediately you walked into that party, I had to completely overhaul what I had planned on preaching. And now, we meet again…”
His phone rang just then; his ringtone was a classic rendition of the hymn, Great is Thy Faithfulness.
“Susan?” he spoke into his phone. He listened for a beat before saying, “Yes. But I am already interviewing one person, so, maybe you should just interview the other person so that it will be faster.” He listened some more and said, “Yes…yes. We will compare notes later.” Then he clicked off.
He turned back to Ihechi, he started, “Strangest of places, ei?” With that leering smile still intact, he reached across the table to hold Ihechi’s hand.
“I have a boyfriend,” she blurted, pulling her hand away from the table and his purchase, and placing it on her laps.
Kingsley frowned. “A boyfriend? Are you not a Christian? How can you have a boyfriend?”
Ihechi was torn between verbally re-setting the idiot’s brain and being courteous. She simply couldn’t afford to get him angry. From the one-sided conversation she’d just witnessed, there would be no one else to say otherwise if he told the principal that she did not make the employment cut.
Taking an inward deep breath, she curved her mouth into a saccharine-rich smile, placing its beam on Kingsley, before saying with feigned coquettishness, “Why don’t we get this interview out of the way first. Then, we can talk about the will of God, hmm?”
It had been more than two weeks, and they hadn’t gotten back to her.
Ihechi had tortured herself with thoughts of the worst possible reasons why Mama Gold solicitors hadn’t called her.
Maybe Kingsley had seen through her pretense…
Maybe he’d gotten angry at the ‘call’ she got immediately after the interview, one which ordered her to come to her cousin’s place at once…
But he’d called her later that evening, and he sounded ok.
Maybe that other Head of Chambers had cursed me for real…
What else could be the reason these people hadn’t called? Ihechi wailed inwardly, while intermittently praying, keeping her phone charged, on and loud at all times, and watching it like a hawk.
“Yay! He said you can start work next Monday,” Comfort announced, plonking down on her chair and grinning from molar to molar.
“Yesss!” Ihechi hissed her scream of joy and boxed the air with a clenched fist, causing Comfort to laugh heartily at her theatric.
Written by The Counsel